Tory Right Heaps Pressure On Rishi Sunak Over Supreme Court Rwanda Ruling
Former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke (Alamy)
Rishi Sunak faces revolt on the right of the Conservative party after the Supreme Court ruled this morning that the government's plan to deport migrants to Rwanda is illegal.
Simon Clarke, the former secretary of state for levelling up, said how the Prime Minister responds to that ruling was a "confidence issue" — suggesting that he would be prepared to vote against Sunak in a confidence vote if he does not deliver the approach to stopping small boats crossings that he wants to see.
"This is now an existential challenge for this government," Clarke told Sky News.
"It is a confidence issue in his judgement as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party."
A number of Conservative MPs on the right of the parliamentary party want him to bring forward emergency legislation to enable ministers to essentially override international law as a way of deporting migrants to the African country.
On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court dismissed the UK government's appeal against a Court of Appeal ruling earlier this year that sending migrants to Rwanda was unlawful.
The Supreme Court's five judges agreed unanimously to uphold the June verdict on the grounds that asylum-seekers could be sent back to their countries of origin by Rwanda.
The former home secretary Suella Braverman, who the Prime Minister sacked on Monday as part of a major Cabinet reshuffle, launched the appeal when she was in post.
Braverman in a highly-scathing letter to Sunak on Tuesday accused the Prime Minister of having no "Plan B" in the event of losing the appeal.
The erstwhile home secretary, who is popular with many MPs on the right of the party, claimed that she “cautioned” Sunak and his team against "assuming we would win” the case, but she was “ignored” and there has been no “Plan B” prepared.
“You opted instead for wishful thinking as a comfort blanket to avoid having to make hard choices,"
“This irresponsibility has wasted time and left the country in an impossible position," she said.
Speaking in Prime Minister's Questions at lunch time, Sunak said the government would respond to today's ruling by negotiating a new partnership with the Rwandan government, and added that he would be prepared to "revisit" the UK's "legal framework" if necessary.
He also said he would be willing to revisit "international relationships” if "international conventions are still frustrating plans" to curb Channel crossings — suggesting that he is prepared to pursue changes to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
However, James Cleverly, the new Home Secretary, poured cold water over the prospect of the UK leaving the convention, telling MPs ministers are "not going to put forward proposals simply to manufacture an unnecessary row for political gain".
The Prime Minister is expected to set out more details of the government's next steps in a Downing Street press conference later today.
However, MPs on the right of the Tory party have publicly called on Sunak to go further.
Speaking in Parliament this morning, Jonathan Gullis of the so-called New Conservatives group said the caucus was considering tabling an emergency "notwithstanding" legislation as a way of pushing ministers to skirt the international laws set referred to by the Supreme Court in its ruling.
Gullis later told BBC's PoliticsLive the Conservative party would be "toast" at the next general election, which is expected to take place in a year's time, if Sunak did not "deliver" on his pledge to stop small boats crossings.
"If the Conservative party doesn't get on top of this issue and deliver, we are toast at the next election. I have no doubt about that," said the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North.
Speaking in Parliament alongside Gullis, Lee Anderson, the Conservative party's deputy chair, said the government should essentially ignore their international obligations and send flights to Rwanda anyway.
Anderson told reporters "we should ignore the law" and"get the planes in the air and send illegal immigrants to Rwanda” regardless of the Supreme Court verdict.
“I’ve said it from day one, when you get to this country on a boat you are breaking the law, you are breaking into this country,” said the Tory MP for Ashfield.
“There is a reason that every person in this room shuts their back door at nighttime and locks it, it’s because you don’t want intruders coming in there."
"The British people have been very patient with this, I’ve been very patient and now they’re demanding action. And this has sort of forced our hand a little bit now.”
Asked about Anderson's remarks this afternoon, Sunak's Press Secretary said Anderson like other Conservative MPs have "strong views" on the need to tackle illegal immigration.
"We appreciate that our MPs have strong views on this because frankly, the country cares about it. Our MPs are focused on what matters to the country," they said.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe